2 thoughts on “Sudan – Bashir goes”

  1. If we are into recollections, I was house sitting for a senior UN official in Khartoum when Bashir and co took over in 1989 and the UN radio called in about the coup….. After having filled every container with water and taken other basic measures, my first thoughts were ‘if these guys can get fuel in the petrol stations, electricity on the grid, water in the pipes and bread in the shops, they are welcome’ indicating the dire state of daily life at that time in the city. Although I suspect many others had similar thoughts, certainly the political class soon informed the world both of the personal corruption of the new rulers as well as the influence of the Islamists. Whatever happens next, the Bashir Regime lasted way longer than any of us anticipated at the time.

  2. I was most interested to read your report on Sudan today. I was awakened on the morning of 25 May 1969 in my house in the New Extension in Khartoum by the Sudanese Army which had come to take away Mohammed Ahmed Mahgoub, the Prime Minister, who lived next door to me. The “May Revolution” was thereby launched almost exactly 50 years ago. It was, as I recall, bloodless, though Ismail Al Azhari, the President, whom I had met only a couple of weeks before, and who was also arrested that morning, died in prison three months later in unexplained circumstances.
    The absence of bloodshed did not last. Col Gaafar Mohammed Nimeiri ordered the bombing of his opponents, the Ansar, and supporters of the Umma Party, on Aba Island on the Nile in 1970, with considerable loss of life. I was also in Khartoum in 1971 during the so-called Communist coup and the counter-coup a couple of days later. The latter resulted in some bloody shoot-outs in Khartoum and elsewhere. (At risk of lapsing into diplomatic tales, I witnessed Nimeiri escaping from the Palace in his underwear, to launch the counter-coup and regain power. The Palace was in those days right in front of the Embassy. This counter-coup was the only occasion that I was in an Embassy that was shot at.)
    The Nimeiri Regime lost no time in inviting in the Russians and the “friendly countries”, i.e. the Soviet Bloc satellites, to assist the revolution. The Russians sold large quantities of military equipment, including tanks and trucks (with powerful heaters) to the Sudanese Army in return for the cotton crop. Russians advisers appeared in most Government departments, and many Sudanese were forbidden to talk to western Embassies. For a while there was a “cold war” atmosphere, although it was not long before the easy-going Sudanese began ignoring this. For a couple of years this was a relationship which the Government found hard to break, though after the counter-coup, Nimeiri began putting out feelers to western countries again.
    Like you, I wonder what will be the alignment of the new regime. The Russians may well find an opportunity to build influence there again, since this is a country they know well, and they are considerably less ideologically-driven now than they were in the 1960s. In recent years, they have also made a huge military investment in the Middle East in a generally successful effort to appear to be reliable allies of Arab regimes. They are keen to build relations in Africa, since they seek markets for their military equipment, new sources of raw materials, particularly minerals, and opportunities to forestall their rivals, such as China, the US, Europe, India, Brazil and Japan. Russia is making a major diplomatic effort there: Sergei Lavrov, the Foreign Minister, has made two trips to Africa in the past year, and President Putin has announced that he will hold a Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi in October this year.
    It will be fascinating to see how the latest Sudanese army take-over progresses, and who emerges as the real leader. In the case of Ibrahim Abboud’s take-over in November 1958, and the May Revolution of 1969, the people were initially happy to see a strong new military government in place.
    It was some time before the inevitable conflicts arose, when the people realised that the army was not in power to mediate between the various parties, and merely went on doing what armies do, i.e. give orders and expect them to be obeyed. This time the people, after the experience of 60 years of on-and-off military rule, seem set on challenging the army from the start, and are less enamoured with the idea of being ruled by a military junta.

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